Reminds you why you loved Old-School gaming, and makes you ask why there isn't more of it these days.

User Rating: 10 | Serious Sam 3: BFE PC
Months of anticipation come to an end, with my pre-purchased Digital Edition (includes soundtrack, and must-see Making-of-BFE vid, amongst other stuff) of the latest Masterpiece by Croatian Developer Croteam. The first Serious Sam, as well as its 'Second Encounter', had everything you could want in an FPS; an easy difficulty making you feel invincible – the opposite one teaching you to dodge in realistically deadly scenarios, intense and frantic action with beautiful and detailed level designs and atmosphere, and gigantic environments littered with some crazy secrets. I am a veteran player of the hyper-realistic ARMA 2, but even I greatly enjoy a throwback to old-school now and then, and Serious Sam is one of, if not the, best in that regard. There's many things I'd like to say about this game that I don't know where to start, but since gamespot hasn't homed a review yet, ready to tar my judgement, it allows me to fully speak from the bottom of my heart.

Now before you think it's bizarre that I give it a 10, let me just explain the features of this game before commenting on what makes it worth it. Serving as a prequel to First Encounter, before Sam travelled back in time to Ancient Egypt, this game deals with Earth's final struggle against Mental, this time set in more Modern-Day Egypt. Instead of resorting to the overly cartoonish nature of Serious Sam 2, Croteam has decided to throw this game back more to the style of First/Second Encounter albeit a more realistic, but still old-school approach. The classic gameplay features of SS return: an optional third-person view, exploration littered with secrets, weapons like double-barrel shotgun and SBC cannon, gory combat against familiar foes like the rocketeer and headless kamikaze. The classic Serious Sam features you have loved so much have just returned bigger and better than before. But wait; there is much new stuff to be mentioned as well in this blasting sequel.

An odd approach for Croteam was to add Iron Sights to some weapons, and a sprint feature. Many people whined like babies that this is too modern for an Old-School FPS, but let me tell you; these things are merely an option. After all, Sam's normal running speed is just as fast as before, so getting to sprint even faster is always welcome. All that aside, the biggest new feature was Sam's melee attacks; ripping a Gnaar's eye, and a rocketeer's heart, right out is one of the most satisfying moves I have inflicted on a VG enemy – and if you wound a scrapjack just beyond the point of killing it, you'll be STUNNED by Sam's finishing melee move on it. As if that were not enough, amazing new weapons include a sledgehammer (my second favourite) and the Sirian Mutilator (my favourite) and the damage they inflict is so satisfying that even after playing an hour it doesn't get any older than the first time you tried them, and I have already played many hours of this game. On the enemy's side, not only do the old foes look beautifully renovated, but there are a good number of new ones to encounter along the way, and your substitute-for-NETRCSA (she first appears in First Encounter) does give awesome detailed, and sometimes whacky, analysis for them.

Even though you could tell that Serious Sam BFE would beat a certain 15-year-developed game, the gameplay alone wouldn't be enough to satisfy even hardcore fans. Things like its graphics, music, sound effects and the one-liners need consideration and fortunately, they were crafted to their full potential. A few of the one-liners have been recycled from the first game, but don't worry; they are just acting as tributes, there are plenty of hilarious new ones to hear. Sam's voice-acting is good enough for 'Sam', but John doesn't sound quite as good as he did 10 years ago. Graphically, the game is stunning and looks even better than the HD games, but I did experience a few crashes and lack of stability – although that's likely due to my own personal hardware. The Sound quality of the guns vary, as some sound more powerful than others, but is satisfying overall (and who cannot forget these screaming suicide bombers). Damjan Mravunac returns to compose like he did the previous games, with Croatian band Undercode's heavy metal tunes. Both have done outstanding jobs in their areas, but it's really Mravunac's great Egyptian-style tunes and bass-riffs that stand out. It's bound to be a contender for soundtrack of the year.

And now comes to the level design. The SS games have always had beautiful levels, but there needed to be more than just beauty to them. Despite recycling the environment style a few times, there is good variation throughout. Another thing that's improved is the actual design which now has depth and variety to them; there are still some 'puzzles' like one level which you needed to find your way around sentry guns, and at the same time, use them against the enemy. It's great overall, to see that Croteam chose to make their levels more uniquely in-depth. While this feeling may just be the result of the fact that previous SS games had relaxing puzzle moments only once every hour, it's great to see nonetheless that Croteam took this approach - the final boss battle includes a real SURPISE at your disposal, and is by far the most epic fight in any SS game. Also, there is more 'corridor' shooting this time against Cloned soldiers and rocketeers, with the HORDES of enemies only coming in much later into the game. I see this as a good thing, because as awesome as Second Encounter was, it got very tedious to fight 250 Kleer skeletons at once every 20 minutes. You'll still have some ridiculous moments towards the end, but it's more scaled down to First Encounter's flow. As for the environment size, it doesn't quite match the scale of the first two games. The desert maps are still gigantic but instead of being able to run miles away like before, you now have a sand whale - as a substitute for invisible walls - ready to snatch you if you venture too far. Fortunately, the level's main areas are still very large and explorable. So whether you are happy or not with scaling down of the environment is entirely up to you.

I was especially impressed by the atmosphere and pace of the game. Amidst all the action are a few moments, most of the time when you explore pyramids, where you actually have a breather from combat while also feeling the uneasiness of exploring a dark tomb. In regards to the combat and tag-line of this game you are "All man." But you're not "No cover.", these cloned soldiers you fight frequently are real sharpshooters so if you tried this on Serious Difficulty, you would be getting a more realistically difficult experience. That's not to say that Serious=Realism, but the combat is pretty deadly against these foes if you stand out in the open. So in conjunction with the corridor shooting, there is actually a lot more emphasis on cover than was recently advertised, but it actually helps to add more variety and strategy to the combat. Besides, you won't realise just how beneficial that is until you play on a harder difficulty.

I can't say much for the story other than it concerns the events leading up Serious Sam's first time travel, so I won't give out a professional rating for that. Storyline is very simplistic, but Croteam already admitted that so you know it's not trying to sound better than it really is. On the positive note of that, it actually manages to be quite interesting extraordinarily enough. I think it's because of the fact that the cutscenes actually look brilliant this time, and are very well directed. The final scene almost brought a tear to my eye, and the 'hero' song during the credits has powerful lyrics during its chorus. I think any hard-core fan will be satisfied, and even interested, in this nicely executed prologue which gives more details about the Sirians as well! The cutscene dialogue does have its witty moments besides Sam's own one-liners, and they manage not to be too intrusive as you always have the option to skip if you aren't interested, but it's good to watch them on the first playthrough. The mouth animation may be flawed, but we must remember that Croteam only consists of about 20 people at the moment, from what I've heard. So the fact that such a great, AA-feeling title was created by 20 people is simply remarkable.

There have been many games we anticipated this year; WH40K Space Marine, DN: Forever, Rage, COD: MW3 to name a few. WH40K was good fun, but felt so overdue in its release. Modern Warfare 3 was nothing more than a full recycle of the exact same engine. Rage was fun, but more linear than advertised and was a broken disaster for PC Gamers. And don't get me started on the disappointing, boring FAILURE that was Duke Nukem: Forever. Of all the games I looked at this year, Serious Sam BFE was the only one that truly met my expectations. If there was ever one small thing I must criticise, it's that many of the secrets are too basic; only a few 'Significant' ones (e.g. Embryo Museum was one in SE) are present in comparison with previous games. Aside from that, I have nothing wrong with this game. BEFORE you rate my review with thumbs down cos I might be over-positive, let me just note that I don't always give 10/10 because I believe a game to be perfect, but often based on the standards of the released titles ever year, and SS:BFE is the only one which met my expectations for this year. It's great to see that Croteam still holds its faith in PC Gaming. BFE has much content that will satisfy both, fans of the serious... sorry, SERIES and newcomers. And once you're done, you will have a great time replaying it's large levels, and try to discover what awesome secrets you have missed, or go for it's seriously incredible multiplayer, including16-player co-op. AJDE CROTEAM!!

Storyline (for SS prequel): 8/10
Graphics: 9.5/10 (stability issues)
Gameplay: 10/10
Sound: 10/10
Levels/scale: 8.5/10
Replay Value: 10/10